Straws, plastic bags, plastic bottles - these are the poster children for plastic pollution. We have all seen the horrifying images of sea life struggling to survive with these items wrapped around their necks or worse yet - filling their stomachs. Even with all of this attention on the problem, one of the most littered items on the planet is not usually connected to the plastic pollution crisis: cigarette filters (or butts).
According to an article from Phys.org, 'An estimated 5.6 trillion cigarettes are smoked each year, out of which two thirds are improperly disposed of. That's [4.5 trillion butts] each year. Since the 1980s, cigarette butts have accounted for 30 percent to 40 percent of all litter found in coastal and urban litter clean-ups.' These butts are made up of thousands of cellulose acetate fibers which take years to biodegrade just like most of the the other micro-plastics that are polluting our oceans.
These butts also contain a number of other chemicals that can kill plants, insects and various other living things like fungus, etc. Our understanding on the effects of these butts on our life is very limiting at the moment, but lab tests performed by Phys,org found that the introduction of butts to grass or clover sees reduced germination and growth by up to 25 percent.
It's obvious that more research is needed so we can fully understand this threat to our planet. It's amazing (and very scary) how plastic pollution issues continue to crop up in new areas outside of our oceans themselves, Many articles such as this one are starting to shine the light on the plastic pollution crisis. We still need more action to make a real change in countering the problem however.